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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 10.23.08] review book horror

Year: 2008
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Author: Brian James
Amazon link: link
Trailer: link
Rating: 5.8 out of 10

Back in August I posted, an admittedly, off the cuff rebuke to a comment Brian James made about how the zombies in his novel, "Zombie Blondes," differed from the classic sort we all know and love. See, unlike the mindless brain eating rotters that occupy most of our favorite films and books, James' zombies are beautiful, popular, dead cheerleaders, who need blood to stay youthful. At the time, my feeling was that, by James' description, his ghoulish girls were more like vampires than zombies and that he was merely using the zombie metaphor to highlight the classic YA fiction theme of "be yourself." Of course, not too long after the post went up I received a message from James saying that I had him all wrong and that his novel in fact gives muchas credence to the zombie mythos, if I would only give it a chance. So he sent me a copy and I did; and, while I still say there's nary a zombie within chomping distance, I'm glad to report that James has written an effectively creepy little book about a small town cult that unfolds with all the panache of a great j-horror flick. It would definitely scare the pants off my 12 year old cousin.

In a lot of ways, Zombie Blondes is less about horror than it is about a tug of war relationship between a plucky girl named Hannah and her desires towards popularity. Ultimately, it is a finely crafted coming of age story with a supernatural twist in which a pre-teen girl must decide whether becoming popular is worth the large price tag of assimilation that comes along with it. In this respect Brian James handles himself masterfully and presents us with a teenaged character who seems extremely real in her awkwardness, insecurities, and confusion about who she is and what she wants.

The story takes place in a quiet burb called Maplecrest where, oddly enough, most of the houses are up for sale and everyone seems to be under the spell of a small group of beautiful teenaged cheerleaders. Despite her better judgement, and the emphatic warnings presented by her only friend Lukas, Hannah finds herself drawn to the girls and wanting to fit into their cultish little clique. As she's accepted into the fold, she finds herself slipping further away from who she used to be, caring less and less about the fact that she may even be putting her "real" friends in harms way.

Zombie Blondes reminded me a lot of The Wicker Man (minus the weird sexual bits) when I was reading it. Maplecrest is a place where kids inexplicably go missing and no one's willing to talk about it or even seems to remember them even existing. The idea that an entire community could be behind something is what makes the book suspenseful because you never know who Hannah can trust. In saying that though, there is virtually no real tension or horror in the book save for one scene that arrives over halfway through the book and then one in the last chapter. I'm sure the idea was to create a slow boiling horror novel but there needed to be more strange things happening to make the sense of horror that much stronger.

I also wanted Hannah to be a little bit more proactive in her quest for answers. There was all kinds of opportunity for James to turn Hannah into a realistic version of Nancy Drew that modern kids could relate to - a character who's defined by her curiosity for life's answers and who must overcome the obstacles and dangers that she finds along her way. Early on in the book she's left alone for a week or so by her father who has to go out of town for work. I thought "a ha! Now she's free to break into the school at night and scour the town for clues." But alas, she spends most of her nights eating craft dinner and drifting off in front the TV, startled by the occasional sounds outside her window.

Of course you should take my opinion with a grain of salt as, in my 29 year old state, I'm hardly the book's intended audience. That said though, I remember the books that won me over when I was my impressionable 12 year old self and I have a feeling Zombie Blondes wouldn't have left that indelible a mark on me. It is however, a fast and enjoyable read with just enough of a creepy vibe to keep you interested in what's on the next page.

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Jashi (13 years ago) Reply

I really wonder wat happened next.I wish the autor wrote clearly wat happened to Lukas9that if he died or not).But i will say this is a really good/interesting book for girls.I loved book!!!!:D


Lindsay (13 years ago) Reply

Do you know if he did/is writing a sequel? I got to the end and was very upset by it. I mean, what the heck happens to Hannah?? Now, maybe you thought it ended fine, but to me it was a cliff hanger and if there's a cliff hanger, there had better darn well be a sequel or I'm going after the author with a pick ax.


pixie katie (13 years ago) Reply

I liked the book to the point where it was interesting but the ending was a little dry in areas, I would like to know more!! -.-'
Also I recommend you read and write a review on Generation Dead, vampire support group, and gingerbread I liked them hope you'll check them out! XD


ShadySJ (12 years ago) Reply

I thought the book was more on reflecting the power play in school. The zombie part came on and off throughout, but power play was really present throughout.

The ending sux in any case, so much loose ends!!!


Tilly (11 years ago) Reply

i normally don't read books but i LOVED zombie blondes. i couldnt put the book down. i was disipointed when the book ended because it was such a good book. do you know if there will be a second one?

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